Parent-Child Relationship in "Barn Burning" by William Faulkner and "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather

2021-05-09 12:24:49
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The relationship between a father and a son has always been a special interest for both writers and readers. The two stories under analysis - "Barn Burning" by William Faulkner and "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather both scrutinize the topic of a striking difference between the father and the son and the catastrophic consequences that this difference causes.

The main character of "Barn Burning" by William Faulkner is a small boy, presumably in his early teens, who lives in constant terror of interacting with his father, a ferocious, merciless brute and an arsonist. The man terrorizes his whole family with his unfathomable pursuit to burn barns of the rich people his family works for. The boy is tired of having to move all the time but he is too scared to do anything. He is totally submissive to his father; he even lies for him in the court of justice. However, there is a different coordinate of morality rooted in the childs psyche. It arises despite his fathers felon tendencies and his general beastly conduct. Growing without a notion what morality and education is, Colonel Sartoris grasps what good and evil is on an instinctive level and prefers to stick to doing the right thing in spite of his father. The boy chooses to prevent another barn burning thus, in his fathers opinion, betraying his family. This choice is not easy for the boy as somewhere deep inside he nonetheless cares for his father with the inscrutable face and the shaggy brows beneath which the gray eyes glinted coldly (Faulkner).

The family situation of Paul in "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather seems to be drastically different at the first sight. Pauls father seems to be a good-natured guy with his hairy legs sticking out from his night-shirt (Cather) who wants only the best for his son, although Paul himself is evidently repulsed by the whole lifestyle his father is leading. Paul is deeply disoriented into thinking that he belongs to a better world of big money and high art. The boy is specifically disgusted by his fathers aspiration for Paul to pattern the life of the red-faced clerk with an old wife and four near-sighted children. Like Sartoris, Paul never has friendly conversations with his father and tries to avoid him too. Paul tries to demonstrate his being different by everything about him- from a red carnation in the loophole of his jacket to exquisite manners which are so out-of-place that seem rude and insolent to the boys teachers. Pauls self-destructive behavior and his being unable to fit anywhere except perhaps in the audience seat of a theater or music hall can be explained by the fact that his Mom died shortly after his birth and he somehow feels responsible for that. Both boys, Paul and Sartoris, feel they should not be where they are and act on this awareness. Both of the boys deeds lead to rupture in their relationship with their fathers through death. Sartoris informs de Spains of his fathers intention to burn the barn again and this leads to his father being shot to death. Paul, on the other hand, steals a big sum of money, simulates the life he was dreaming of, and finally jumps under a moving locomotive not to be part of ugliness of this world (Cather).

Therefore, judging from the stories discussed, the role of a father seems to be of crucial importance in the life of every boy. It is largely fathers responsibility to teach his son important moral values and proper conduct. Both stories demonstrate a failure of father-son relationship of different kind. The inability of a parent and a child to find at least something in common may and will lead to terrible life-changing repercussions.

Works Cited

Casser, Willa Pauls Case. Web. 31 March 2016.

Faulkner, William Barn Burning. Web. 31 March 2016.

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